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People's Daily Online>>Life & Culture

Traditional painting brings wealth to Tibetans

(Xinhua)

10:18, March 16, 2012

XINING, March 15 (Xinhua) -- Gendun Dargye bought his Audi Q5 sedan and iPhone with money he earned by creating Thangka paintings, a centuries-old, traditional Tibetan art form that was once monopolized by monasteries and the nobility but has now become a cash cow for Gendun and his fellow villagers.

With the help of over 20 apprentices, Gendun, 48, packs up orders for his paintings and ships them to destinations around the world, including Britain, France, the United States, Canada and Singapore, often after processing the orders online using his laptop.

A Thangka painting by Gendun sells for more than 100,000 yuan (15,787 U.S. dollars) on average, and his annual orders are worth millions of yuan.

Thangka is a form of Tibetan silk painting that dates back to the Tibetan Tubo Kingdom (about 629-840). Thangka paintings are always painted with mineral and organic pigments derived from materials such as coral, agate, sapphire, pearl and gold, and the color on the paintings can last for centuries.

As a Buddhist art form, Thangka paintings are often hung on the walls of the homes of Tibetan families for worship. Moreover, it is an ideal souvenir for tourists to Tibet or other Tibetan areas.

Thangka paintings, murals, patchwork crafts and sculptures were listed as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2009.

And the Wutun village in Tongren County, Qinghai Province, where Gendun lives has been named "the hometown of Regong arts." ("Regong" means "golden valley" in Tibetan.)

Gendun began to learn the traditional craft, which was passed down from his great-grandfather, when he was only six years old. Gendun's father, ShaWu Tsering, was awarded the title of National Art Master in the 1980s, and once followed the famed Chinese artist Zhang Daqian to draw pictures in Dunhuang, Gansu province, home to the world-famous Mogao Grottoes.

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